Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Global Vegetarian Cooking

I love food. Especially world food. I have had the good fortune of meeting wonderful people from different parts of the world -- Turkey, India, Lebanon, Brazil, etc -- and they all willingly share their love of food, culinary expertise, and pride in their culture. While I was living on the university campus, potluck dinners took on a new meaning. I reveled in the international flavors reminiscent of the centuries-ago spice trade. Each time I visited one of my friends, there would almost always be some amaaazing home-cooked dish in the kitchen, whatever time of day.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw this book: Global Vegetarian Cooking: Quick and Easy Recipes From Around the World (by Troth Wells) at Ten Thousand Villages, a gem of a store in O'Bryonville, Cincinnati. With recipes such as Muhamara (a Turkish dip), Harira (a Moroccan bean stew), Gibneh (an Egyptian pate) and Pilao (an Indian rice dish), I could not put the book down. The photos were equally lovely -- the photographer captured not just the food of the country, but the country's beautiful people as well.

The only thing that saddened me was that there were no recipes from the Philippines. :-( Well, hopefully there will be a 2nd edition. Hmmmm..... maybe I should write to the author? Filipino cuisine is a mixture of Spanish and Chinese heritage, combined with creativity and necessity to suit our appetites, as well as a "waste not, want not" attitude. Another interesting bit of trivia: we like to eat 5 or 6 times a day. Anyway, I started to make a mental list of Filipino vegetarian dishes.

- lumpia (similar to Chinese spring rolls)
- lumpiang ubod (vegetables in a crepe-like wrapper with a sweet, salty, sour, peanutty dipping sauce)
- adobong kangkong (sauteed garlicky leafy greens)
- white bean stew (my late grandpa says that the recipe was from his mother or grandmother-- the original Spanish-style recipe has pork and ham bones, but I've adapted it and made it vegetarian. My great great grandmother must be turning in her grave, bless her heart)
- arorosep (my dad's favorite side dish - a cold salad of seaweed, tomatoes, and onions. I love seaweed, but even this is an acquired taste for me)

Ooooh and let's not forget the sweets:
- turon: sweetened plantains and langka wrapped in a wonton-like wrapper, fried to a crisp with bits of caramelized sugar all around
- suman: sticky rice steamed with coconut milk, ginger, and sugar, wrapped in banana leaves. My grandma used to make the best suman. It's a labor intensive dish, which sadly I have not learned to make.

These have eggs and dairy, so they are not strictly vegetarian, but they are SO good.
- polvoron: like a crumbly shortbread cookie. My mom makes the best polvoron, and it's one of the special treats I get when she comes to visit. She would make a big batch and painstakingly mold and wrap each little cookie.
- bibingka: a cake made with rice flour, cooked on banana leaves over hot coals, with shredded coconut, muscovado sugar, and kesong puti -- a local cheese, a cross between goat cheese and feta cheese, but in my opinion, a cheese category in its own right

To complete the picture, imagine eating all of the above by the ocean, on large banana leaves that do double duty as a tablecloth and plates (think eco-friendly, disposable but biodegradable china) spread out on a long table, the sea breeze, and a big noisy family.

Ok, I'm homesick now....

Anyway, back to my point about the book: a must read for foodies!

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